Graduates from the Breaking Barriers programme

Inside Strathclyde Award winning Breaking Barriers programme open for applications

For a third consecutive year, the University of Strathclyde, in collaboration with ENABLE Scotland, Scottish Power and Marriott Hotel, Glasgow, will be delivering Breaking Barriers, a pioneering programme enabling young people with learning disabilities to attend university, achieve an accredited qualification and gain real work experience with two of Scotland’s largest employers.  

As a socially progressive institution, Strathclyde is committed to inclusion and opening higher education to all. Unique to the UK, Breaking Barriers develops opportunities and takes positive action to address the low number of young people with learning disabilities attending university in Scotland. The programme, which won the Youth Employment Award at the 2018 Herald Diversity Awards and has been shortlisted in this year’s Times Higher Education Awards, helps raise aspirations by providing equal access to university and giving our learners a full student experience in a world class institution.

Successful applicants are secured a place at the University and are supported throughout their learning, which includes subjects such as digital marketing and social media, working with people, customer service and hospitality operations, as well as being provided with a clear path into a work placement and improved opportunities to secure paid employment.

Inclusive experience of university life

The students also enjoy a comprehensive and inclusive taste of university life, with full access to the library, sports facilities and Students’ Union. The programme aims not just to provide educational experience but also recognises the transformational life experiences attending university can provide.

Students are paired with third year peer-mentors from Strathclyde Business School’s Management Development Programme Social Pathway who are trained by ENABLE Scotland. They help deliver a freshers’ week, inducting their mentees into university life, answering queries, and assisting with their studies to help them be part of the Strathclyde community and enjoy their student experience.

Once the taught element of the programme is complete, applied learning with industry partners ScottishPower and Marriott Hotels follow, where the learners put their newly-acquired skills into practice. On successful completion of their placement and assignment, the learners graduate in the autumn with a Certificate in Applied Business Skills and a 20 credit SCQF level 4 qualification, in a fully-inclusive graduation ceremony at the University’s Barony Hall.

International opportunities

Breaking Barriers study trip to Comillas Pontifical University Business School in Madrid, June 2019This year, ten students, accompanied by staff from Strathclyde Business School and ENABLE Scotland, enjoyed a study trip to Comillas Pontifical University Business School in Madrid, meeting and sharing experiences with participants of their DEMOS programme, which was used as an exemplar for Breaking Barriers.

The group also attended the DEMOS student graduations and took a trip with the staff and students to Segovia, a small town north west of the city.  This international learning opportunity gave the students a chance to engage and access new experiences and cultures, alongside meeting other young people from another country, comparing experiences and working collaboratively. 

It is hoped that a trip can be organised to welcome a selection of students from the DEMOS programme to Scotland.

Breaking Barriers will see a third cohort of students registering at Strathclyde in session 2019/20, and we very much look forward to developing the programme to benefit our young people.

Breaking Barriers in numbers

  • 15 students registered on the 2018-19 programme (increasing the number from eight the previous year)
  • 12 of these went on to complete their applied learning, compared with five students in 2017-18
  • 8 SBS Year 3 Management Development Programme students were peer-mentors for this year’s cohort
  • 7 of the learners worked with Scottish Power and four worked with Marriott Hotels, Glasgow
  • 1 has taken up a role as a Modern Apprentice in the University’s Recruitment and International Office and is doing their applied learning through that role

Andrew Warnock, 2018 Breaking Barrier graduate said: “I have a keen interest in digital media so wanted to learn more and have a career in this field. However, despite trying for about a year, I was unable to find a meaningful job doing what I was interested in.

“I applied to join the first group of students on the Breaking Barriers programme. I really enjoyed everything – the lectures, work placement and the social side of being a university student. I made new friends not only with my fellow Breaking Barriers students, but also with the mentors and other students doing courses at Strathclyde Business School. As a direct result of my participation in the programme and a successful work trial, I was offered a full-time paid job with a web-design and marketing firm as a Digital Marketing Assistant. I’m loving it!

 “All of this was possible thanks to Breaking Barriers, and I’d encourage every young person with a learning disability to apply to join the programme. People are always underestimating people with learning disabilities, but in fact, we are just as capable as everybody else and have so much to offer.”


Breaking Barriers Chris 2019 graduateChris Howie, a learner in the 2018/19 cohort added: “I started Breaking Barriers in October 2018 as quite a shy person with very little confidence, along with very little idea of what I would like to do in the wide world of work. As the course moved on, I learned to be more outgoing, made friends and gained a large amount of confidence in my skills to move far beyond what I thought was possible.

“With this experience I feel I’ve become more adept in the world of business, giving me some hope to move further than I could believe was possible from what I had before – very little skills and confidence. I now feel that I can achieve great things I never thought I could or would do ever in my life, making me feel like a better person.”

Find out more

If you, or someone you know, is interested in finding out more about Breaking Barriers and how you can apply for our 2020 cohort of students please call ENABLE Direct on 0300 0200 101 or email